The Jeddah consultative conference on the Ukrainian war continues to receive acclaim after representatives from over 40 countries, including national security advisors from China, India, the United States, and European nations, shared ideas and explored solutions in the coastal Saudi city.
Although the conference was always intended to facilitate exploratory and consultative talks, and thus no concluding statement had not been expected, Saudi Arabia managed to build common ground for this meeting, which allowed for the issuance of a final statement. This raises an essential question: How did Saudi Arabia manage this?
Saudi Arabia succeeded because it adopted a posture of positive neutrality in its engagement with this crisis. While political neutrality can sometimes be negative, the Saudi leadership, headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, prevailed. It succeeded despite the vociferous Western campaigns that sought to portray the Kingdom’s approach to Russia’s war in Ukraine negatively.
From the outset, Saudi Arabia positioned itself as a mediator and peacemaker, and it was keen on remaining equidistant from all the parties involved in the crisis. This strategic posture allowed Saudi Arabia to bring those nations and powers together in a room in Jeddah.
The Kingdom’s efforts began with its votes on UN resolutions regarding the war in Ukraine and its subsequent facilitation of the release of prisoners.
Then came Saudi Arabia’s different stance, which caught the entire world’s attention, as the Crown Prince sent his Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, to Kyiv. From that visit onwards, the world became aware that Saudi Arabia is playing a positive role in resolving this perilous crisis that could have severe implications for us all.
Then came Saudi Arabia’s most prominent step, inviting the Ukrainian president to attend the Arab League summit in Jeddah. This invitation demonstrated its strategic position and how it could contribute to resolving the Ukrainian crisis.
By extending its hand to the Ukrainian president, Saudi Arabia gave him the opportunity to meet with officials who do not support him, though they do not necessarily support or oppose him either. In any case, all the Ukrainians need to do is make their voice heard around the world. The Arab League summit in Jeddah allowed them to do just that.
The Jeddah meeting between national security advisors offered Ukraine the same opportunity. Saudi Arabia also afforded the Ukrainians the opportunity to be heard by 42 countries, including the United States, and more importantly, China.
Naturally, China’s stance on the Ukrainian crisis cannot be called “neutral,” although it has previously sent a proposal. Nonetheless, it was vital that China attend, especially since China did not attend the Copenhagen conference.
China’s presence offered the Ukrainians a chance to convey their message to the Chinese, and other major actors, directly. Indeed, the official Ukraine sent to the Jeddah meeting, Andriy Yermak, held bilateral meetings with representatives from more than 30 countries.
For this reason, the US Department of State expressed its appreciation for China’s attendance at the Jeddah conference. Washington understands the significance of China’s attendance for the Ukrainians and for ensuring an eventual solution. For its part, China lauded the conference and announced that it would attend future consultative meetings.
Thus, the aim of the Jeddah meeting was not to find a resolution for this war that is threatening global peace and the global economy. Rather, its objective was to pave the way for possible solutions, and this is where Saudi Arabia succeeded, as the whole world recognized.
Saudi Arabia is being lauded because its neutrality is positive, not negative. Its neutral posture is the outcome of the role it has been playing on a global level. This matter cannot be overlooked, as this achievement is an extension of the Saudi success it has achieved, both domestically and internationally. under the leadership of the Crown Prince.